Friday, May 31, 2013



I had known Pensri for ages. We graduated from the same alma mater in Bangkok but from different faculties and different years. She was 5 years my senior. We worked at the same big organisation and were very close back in the 90’s. She was like my big sister and taught me a lot about work and sometimes lives.

Pensri breathed work – she was a perfectionist and very often was the real engine behind the scene that drove many projects to their successes. It was hurtful to see her hard work often go unnoticed and that she did not get promoted in timely manner as she deserved.

As busy as she was, she was a fantastic mother and a great cook. Her two daughters have grown up, graduated and are running successful lives. Many, many years a go when I was stationed in Holland, she took an excursion from her assignment in Germany to see me with a luggage full of my favourite food that she cooked for me herself (and she carried the food from Bangkok to Frankfurt then to me in Rotterdam!).

When Bob and I were about to move to New Zealand she hosted a farewell lunch for us at the restaurant by the Chao Praya River. She handed Bob a piece of paper containing the above note in her hand writing.

She was stationed in one of the offices in the US in 2005. We did not contact each other regularly but a few Christmas and Birthday cards plus several emails over the years (she admitted she still preferred sending fax in 2010) She was a workaholic and had a habit of not writing when she was engrossed with work (as we also do).

She moved to Chiang Mai office in 2010 and had her first bout with cancer the following year. The last time I saw her was in September 2011 in Bangkok – she had just undergone chemotherapy but was still very active and working hard as usual. She had accompanied a group of journalists from Chiang Mai to Bangkok HQ. So we met up in town for lunch. Her office car had to go somewhere with the group so my other best friend (who kindly drove me around while I was in Thailand) dropped her off at her hotel. I had very limited time in Bangkok so I did not have a chance to see her again during that trip. The last picture of her that I remember is this fragile lady (albeit strong on the inside) with a brave smile waving goodbye to us from the hotel entrance.

She moved back to Bangkok HQ at the end of 2011 and had undergone an operation for the cancer had come back in 2012.  I had an impression that it went well and she eventually got a long awaited promotion at work. Everything seemed good. 

For the past few months she had gone very quiet with no updates on her Facebook but I didn’t think anything negative as I thought she might be busy with work. I visited her page again on Monday to check on her (like I did every month or so). One of her friends in Bangkok posted the schedule for her funeral and that post was two weeks old. That was how I learned of her passing - she passed away on 12 May 2013. I was numb for hours.

I emailed her best friend and was told the cancer had spread to her back and she could hardly walk in April. She was admitted into the hospital the day before she quietly and peacefully went asleep forever.

That’s another lesson I learn – don’t take friendship for granted. I should have nurtured and spent more time on our friendship. She was a phone call away and our phone here is VOIP – no excuse. And now it was too late.

I trawled our old email messages and re-read and laughed and cried.

Dear sis – sorry for not being there. There is no pain in heaven and you can rest in peace.

Wednesday, May 29, 2013

Sweet and Spicy Bread and Butter Pickles - Another Guest Post

I am not a big fan of pickles but I have to admit that I like Tracey's bread and butter pickles very much. Below is how she makes them.

1 kg cucumbers cut into 1/8 inch rounds
1 medium white onion, halved and thinly sliced
2 heaped tablespoons salt
2 cups ice cubes
3 cups cider or white vinegar
2 1/4 cups sugar
1 teaspoon whole mustard seeds
3/4 teaspoon celery seed
3/4 teaspoon whole black peppercorns
1/4 teaspoon tumeric
1/4 teaspoon chilli flakes

To draw out the excess liquid and increase crunch, toss cucumbers and onion with salt in a large colander.  Add ice, and toss again.  Place over a bowl, and refrigerate, tossing occasionally, for 3 hrs. Drain. Rince well and drain again.

Bring vinegar, sugar, mustard and celery seeds, peppercorns, tumeric, and chilli flakes to a boil in a large saucepan.  Add cucumbers and onion.  Return to a boil, and boil for 5 minutes.

Ladle into hot sterilized jars, leaving about 1cm below the jar's neck.  Place on hot sterilized lids and tighten.  Leave to cool.

Ready to eat in 1 month.

The pickles also go well with my Chiang Mai Noodle Soup.

Monday, May 27, 2013

Autumn’s Colours

As the temperature is coming down, the deciduous trees around here are changing their colour to beautiful autumn hue. Hopefully they will stay this beautiful for a while until the next storm.

Friday, May 24, 2013

That’s a Good Catch

Bonnie is about to catch her toy mid-air in black and white. I like this picture – it captures Bonnie’s jumping action very well. This dog is always a good jumper (not that kind that you can wear) – but she prefers the environment of her own home. When we try to get her into Flygility training at the dog club, she’s often distracted and fails miserably.

Wednesday, May 22, 2013

Yaki Soba – Fried Noodles with Japanese Sauce

Yaki Soba is a kind of Chinese style Japanese dish that is sometimes cooked with ramen noodles rather than soba noodles. However, it tastes much better with soba noodles but, of course, you can also use instant egg noodles – just don’t add flavour that comes in the sachet when cooking them.

For 2 you will need:

2 bundles of dried soba noodles (about 150 grams), cooked in boiling water for 4 to 5 minutes and rinse in cold water and drained
250 grams chicken or pork, cut into thin strips
2 cloves of garlic, crushed
2 spring onions, chopped to 3 cm length
200 grams Chinese cabbage or Shanghai Bok Choy, chopped
1 medium carrot, julienned or sliced thinly
Vegetable oil for frying
A dash of sesame oil for flavouring
½  sheet Nori, cut into very thin strips for garnish, scissors work best (optional)
1 teaspoon toasted sesame seeds for garnish (optional)

1 tablespoon sake (or dry sherry)
1 tablespoon mirin
2 tablespoons soy sauce (I use Kikkoman)
1/3 cup dashi stock or chicken stock
2 teaspoons Worcester sauce
1 teaspoon sugar

Combine all the sauce ingredients together in a bowl and set aside.

Fry garlic in a little bit of oil in a wok over medium heat until fragrant. Add chicken and fry until cooked. Add carrot and bok choy fry further for a couple of minutes then add spring onions and half the sauce mixture. Keep turning until the vegetables are soft and well coated then add noodles. Use two wooden spatulas to separate the noodles before adding the remaining sauce. Taste and add more soy sauce if needed.

Serve warm with sesame seeds and nori sprinkled on top.

Monday, May 20, 2013

Buckwheat Noodles – Soba

The dried Japanese soba noodles are readily available here and they are not limited to Asian groceries. Supermarkets like Countdown and New World also carry them.

Buckwheat noodles are usually made from buckwheat with a little bit of ordinary wheat as a binding agent. Buckwheat itself is not true wheat but more like a herb related to knotweed and sorrel. It has grain-like seeds which can be harvested many times a year. Buckwheat noodles are more complex than ordinary wheat noodles and contain many amino acids (protein).There are also pure buckwheat noodles available in some shops for people with gluten free diet.

I cook with soba noodles from time to time. I will post one recipe this week. Many of my soba dishes are not necessary true Japanese but they are easy and I hope you will find them tasty too.

Friday, May 17, 2013

My First Neil Stephenson’s

I am just starting reading my third Neil Stephenson’s book at the moment and he’s my flavour of the season. He's very good with words whilst creative and imaginative at the same time. His first novel that I read was REAMDE– it’s a kind of thriller packed with actions. The story is based around multi-player on-line game with gold farming activities  and people being at the wrong place at the wrong time but you don’t have to be a game nerd to follow the story – it’s very well explained through the book. I have heard that it will be adapted and produced into TV mini-series for FOX. I could almost imagine Bruce Willis (Die Hard) and Lucy Lui (Charlie’s Angels) playing the roles of Richard Forthrast and Olivia Halifax-Lin respectively in the movie but I don’t think it will happen!

The book is humongous (1,000+ pages) so kindle version is strongly recommended so you will not hurt yourself if you happen to drop the book on any part of your body.

Note: The photo is from

Wednesday, May 15, 2013

Paella - My Style

I remember the first time I ever had Paella – it was at 7 Portes  in Barcelona where they serve their paella in a pan with nice crusty bits at the bottom. So it was the real McCoy.

My version of Paella is, of course, quite different from the original. To start with, I use my cast iron casserole instead of proper paella pan and turmeric instead of saffron - but if you have saffron at hand, do use it. However, my version is easy without too much fuss.

For 4, you will need:
400 grams skinless chicken meat (I prefer thigh meat), cut into pieces, 3-4 cm
100 grams chorizo, sliced thickly
100 grams mushrooms, sliced
½ red capsicum, sliced
2 garlic cloves, crushed and chopped
3 – 4 medium size tomatoes, chopped roughly
1 cup frozen peas
Zest of 1 lime
1 teaspoon turmeric
1 teaspoon paprika
1 teaspoon chopped coriander or parsley leaves
Cracked black pepper
1 cup rice (if you have Arborio, use it but I use Thai Jasmine rice)
2 cups chicken stock
Olive oil to fry

Fry capsicum with olive oil in thick pan or casserole on medium heat until soft and set aside.
Seal the chicken piece in the pan until brown, add chorizo and fry further for a few minutes. Set aside.

Add more oil in the pan, fry garlic until fragrant. Add mushrooms, fry until soft then add tomatoes and capsicum. Let it bubble for 3-4 minutes then add peas. Stir the mixture around a bit longer. Add rice, chicken and chorizo. Add turmeric, paprika and lime zest. Turn the rice well until it is coated with the other mixture in the pan. Add stock, stir briefly and let it boil. Place the lid on the pan or casserole and reduce the heat. Cook for 25 -30 minutes. Remove from heat and stand undisturbed for another 10 minutes. Sprinkle with chopped coriander and black pepper before serving.

que aproveche!

Monday, May 13, 2013

Milky Mouth

Hello, I’m Spike. You would have known me from several months ago. Late last year I was homeless and humanless. I was thin, hungry and scared.  I had been in a fight and got a nasty infection on my back. However, these humans have found me, fed me  and nursed me back to heath – hey, they even go out of their way from time to time to give me extra services like scratching behind my ears and brushing my coat. 

So I am quite happy now. I have somewhere to shelter myself from rain and cold. I have plenty of food and treats. I am a bit..ahem…plump and fluffy. No worms, no fleas. Cannot complain – at the mo, anyway. Oh, and excuse me for my milky mouth – I just have had my liquid snack!

Friday, May 10, 2013

Home Grown Limes

We have had our lime tree for about 6 years. The first few years the harvest was wimpy (borrowing my American friend’s description of her home grown vegetables) and poorly but for the last two seasons, we had plenty of fruits. This year is no exception – we must have nearly a hundred. The branches are heavy with fruits. I am very happy – the two-fruit- a year is the thing of the past.

So my dear readers, kindly expect several recipes with limes in the next few weeks. Limes can make such a lot of good summer drinks – it’s a shame their high season is in Autumn/Winter here but never mind, we will make the most of them apart from giving away to friends and neighbours.

Wednesday, May 8, 2013

Noodle Beef Soup ( ก๋วยเตี๋ยวเนื้อเปื่อย)

I was supposed to write this post last month but something else kept coming up for immediate attention. However, one of my old friends from my uni years in America with whom I had lost contact ages ago managed to track me down via this blog. How cool is that! So here I am – this post is inspired by the people I spent fun and youthful times with many, many years ago.

The time I went to university in America there were not many dishes that I could actually cook – although I sort of knew what good food should taste like. Beef soup was one of the dishes I learned how to cook from a friend. During my time over there it seemed many (Thai) boys could cook much better than us girls  – or at least they were more adventurous and could identify how to improvise as way back when, Asia groceries were not everywhere like today – we had to drive 30 odd miles to the city to shop Asian food ingredients. Anyway, I still cook beef soup the way one of the boys, Tom, taught me to (thank you, Tom).

You will need:

700 grams beef (cheaper cut will do but I use rump as it is quicker to cook)
2 or three stems of celery, chopped to 10 cm long
3-4 cloves of garlic, bruised
Coriander, whole with roots
4-5 pieces Star anise
1 teaspoon black pepper corns, crushed
1 carrot, peeled
1 litre beef stock
Soy sauce
Dark soy sauce
2 tablespoons each of chopped spring onion, celery leaves and coriander leaves to garnish
Garlic flakes
White pepper
A bunch of thin rice noodles or rice vermicelli (about 200-250 grams), soaked in warm water until soft
This recipe will be enough for 3-4 people for lunch.

Place whole coriander, celery sticks, black pepper corns, star anise, carrot and bruised garlic in the bottom of cast iron casserole and put beef (in chunks) on top of it. Pour stock over the beef and bring to the boil on medium high heat. Place the lid on tightly and reduce the heat to low. Let it simmer for 45 minutes to an hour for rump and longer for stew beef.

When the beef is soft but still holds the shape – lift and slice into smaller pieces (1-2 cm). Strain the cooking liquid through sieve to get rid of herbs, vegetables and scum. Put the beef back into the liquid -add soy sauce and dark soy sauce to taste, add more water if needed. Simmer further until the beef is very soft and tender.

Cook rice noodles in boiling water, drain and divide into bowls – rice vermicelli will cook faster and easier than the other. Ladle the beef soup over it, garnish with spring onion, coriander and celery leaves. Sprinkle with garlic flakes and chilli flakes if you like it hot. Enjoy!

Monday, May 6, 2013

Flash Mob

These birds are doing flash mob on us, starting landing randomly on the roof and the one on the chimney comes last – he’s the conductor of course! I think they are doing Ode to Joy but I cannot be too sure about their rendition.

I got impressed with Beethoven’s Ode to Joy and came to like it when I listened to this piece in open air in the market square of Freiburg on the edge of Germany’s Black Forrest when I had a grand tour of the continent Europe many, many years ago. We did not have flash mob back then but this guy just set up his keyboard – sort of synthesizer or something similar – in the square and played several classical pieces. It’s also the first time that I ever listened to Peer Gynt suite and fell in love with it since. Many people including us bought his CDs – so it worked well for him.

Friday, May 3, 2013


Most people have mouse on their desk – I seem to have both cat and mouse on mine quite often.

Pipi is such a T-dub (short for time waster). She likes to come in my office in the afternoon and jumps up on my desk trying to get my attention for a while before squeezing herself between me and the back of my chair. I can unashamedly say that this cat attributes to my back pain. 

One Sunday afternoon while I was processing her pictures she jumped on my desk again and the cat on the screen looked like she disapproved!

Wednesday, May 1, 2013

Oeuf en Cocotte au Chorizo – Coddled Egg with Chorizo

Excuse my French, literally. Ordinary food sounds more fancy in French, doesn't it? Imagine saying "Oh, I just made Oeuf en Cocotte for breakfast this morning." It sounds like you put more effort into cooking it and not just a simple dish of coddled egg (or eggs). It is my favourite breakfast, especially when I have to feed the crowd (more than 2 is the crowd for me!)

For 2 you will need:
2-4 eggs
2 tablespoons chopped, cooked chorizo
2 tablespoons grated cheddar cheese
2 tablespoons of crème fraiche (or 1 tablespoon sour cream and 1 tablespoon thickened cream mix together)
A dash of pepper
2 ramekins
4 slices of French bread stick

Pre-heat the oven to 180 degrees C. Grease the ramekins with butter. Divide chopped chorizo between both ramekins and topped with grated cheese. Break an egg or 2 (if you have a healthy appetite) onto the chorizo and cheese in each ramekin. Butter the bread slices and place them on the baking sheet.

Bake the eggs for about 10 minutes and add crème fraiche on top before baking for further 5 to 7 minutes. You can also bake the bread at the same time on the lower shelf.

Sprinkle with a bit of freshly ground pepper. Serve warm with bread.